After hitting a 13-year low in November 2021, the number of permits for shale gas wells in Pennsylvania returned to a more normal level.
The 69 permits pulled in December 2021 marked a 103% increase month over month and a 6% increase over permitting activity for the same period a year ago, according to Jan. 5 data from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Pennsylvania shale producers continued their pattern of keeping production low, rather than upping output to chase natural gas futures prices that exceeded $6/MMBtu in October 2021. Although prices began retreating in December, they still were far above the near-record lows of 2020.
Nearly half of the December 2021 permits were pulled by two companies: Coterra Energy Inc., operating in the dry gas window of northeast Pennsylvania, and Range Resources Corp., which operates primarily in the liquids-rich southwestern part of the state. Coterra — the new name of the merged Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. and Cimarex Energy Co. — pulled 16 well permits in December, while Range pulled 15.
Publicly traded drillers accounted for 86% of the permitting activity, and the state's five largest gas producers — EQT Corp., Chesapeake Energy Corp., Coterra, Range and Southwestern Energy Co. — accounted for 70%.
While the shape of Pennsylvania's shale play changed little, activity in December 2021 was heaviest in the dry gas northeast of the state, with 41 permits issued for Tioga, Susquehanna and Bradford counties. The liquids-rich counties of Washington and Greene, south of Pittsburgh, saw 18 permits pulled, or 26% of the December count.
Nine permits were pulled in Tioga County in December, a dramatic shift from no permitting activity the previous month. Spanish major Repsol SA accounted for seven of those permits, with Seneca Resources Corp., the upstream unit of New York gas company National Fuel Gas Co., pulling the other two.